How to recycle your electricals and appliances
If you have old gadgets to get rid of, here's how to avoid creating e-waste with options for recycling, repairing and donating to charity
When it comes to kitchen appliances, here at BBC Good Food we test hundreds every year to bring you helpful reviews so you can spend your money wisely. We all love a shiny new appliance, whether it’s the next best kettle or that stand mixer in a vibrant colour, but often, we don’t pay enough attention to what happens to the old one.
Thankfully, the government's new ‘right to repair’ law should bring about changes to how some products are made. It requires manufacturers to build products so that they’re easier to repair when they go wrong, thereby extending the life of the product. But at the moment this only covers some appliances such as washing machines, dishwashers and TVs.
In the meantime, there are plenty of appliances and electricals that either break or become outdated within a very short space of time. In this instance, we need to be clever about what we do with them so that we don’t perpetuate the e-waste problem.
E-waste: what is it?
E-waste is the term used to describe any and all electronic and electrical devices that are no longer used. So this could include large appliances like washing machines and ovens, as well as smaller items such as blenders, toasters, mobile phones and stereos. Basically, anything with a plug or battery that you’re looking to dispose of can be regarded as e-waste.
According to the Health and Safety Executive, an estimated two million tonnes of waste electric and electronic equipment are discarded by householders and companies in the UK every year. This is a mighty waste problem and we all need to do our bit to direct these items into the correct avenues for recycling and reuse. If dumped into landfill, toxic substances that are present in some electricals – such as lead and mercury – can leach into soil and water, so we want to avoid this at all costs.
What to do when an appliance breaks
Always check the warranty. Even if you think you’ve had it longer than the warranty period, some brands may still offer a repair for a small fee, or be able to sell you a replacement part. Depending on the appliance this could cost less than a total replacement, plus it’s more eco-conscious to repair rather than replace.
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If the brand can’t repair it, there are plenty of independent appliance repair companies who’ll come out and take a look. Have a look online for trusted and recommended traders in your area. Even some major companies offer an independent appliance repair service for larger items like cookers, microwaves, washing machines and dryers.
What to do with your old working appliances
We upgrade electricals and appliances for a variety of reasons, but not always because the old one is broken. So if your electricals still have life in them, you may be able to donate them to a worthy cause instead of recycling.
Many (but not all) charity shops accept working electricals and you can donate smaller items by taking them directly to shops – just check that they accept electricals before dropping off. Some even take larger appliances like washing machines, dishwashers and microwaves. Certain charities will collect them from your house for free – simply book a collection online.
You can list any item on online listings such as Facebook Marketplace or Freecycle. It’s good courtesy to make sure it’s clean, and to list any faults or damage in the advert.
Recycle Your Electricals is a useful resource that not only provides information on recycling electricals, but also lists organisations that may welcome electrical donations. Similarly, the Reuse Network will point you towards your nearest charities and community projects that’ll accept and reuse your working electrical items.
Which retailers recycle electricals?
Taking broken electricals to the local refuse centre isn’t your only option. Lots of retailers accept and collect old electricals for recycling as well as reuse.
Currys will remove and recycle large appliances when they deliver your new one, prices start at £15 for this service. Or, smaller items, such as kettles and TVs, can be dropped off to a store for recycling. For some tech, like laptops and mobile phones, they offer a trade-in service – you’ll get a voucher to redeem against your next purchase.
For £20, AO will come and collect large appliances like fridges and washing machines even if you’re not buying your new one from them.
In most B&Q stores, you’ll find a bin where you can drop off small electricals and batteries for recycling. If you’re buying a large electrical item from them, they’ll collect your old one for £44.
For £19.99, Argos will take your old appliance away for recycling when they deliver your new one. Or you can take small electrical items into stores if you’re buying a like-for-like replacement from them.
According to recycle-more.co.uk, in the UK we throw away a staggering 600 million batteries per year. Whether they’re from your children's toys, TV remote, or your kitchen scales, we’re all constantly replacing batteries, and it’s important that the used batteries are properly disposed of as they can contain hazardous substances and should never be put in your general waste bin.
Thankfully, all shops that sell over a certain amount of batteries per year must provide battery recycling collection points in store. This includes most large supermarkets as well as lots of DIY stores and some high street shops, too. Recyclenow.com provides a handy tool – just input your postcode to find your nearest shop with a battery recycling bin.
Some local councils will also collect batteries, but they need to be kept separate from your other recycling. Check the waste and recycling information on your local council’s website to find out if they do collect, and any requirements they have for collection.
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